I’d actually like to own something like the Apple Watch. It’s a step towards ubiquitous computing, it’s got health features that I should be paying more attention to as I get older, and it’s designed to work with my existing crop of gadgets at work and at home. I’m not going to, though, at least not for a few years, because the current implementation is less useful utility and more ostentatious, over-priced status symbol. So I’ll wait a while for the sensible wearable Apple widget.
But there’s one bad reason to shun the Apple Watch: that it has mysterious unknown deadly health risks. But that’s exactly the argument an article in the New York Times has made.
The article by Nick Bilton is flaming paranoia: he compares wearing a watch with an electromagnetic transmitter to smoking cigarettes. I’d tear into the absurdities, but I don’t need to: Orac is coldly unkind to them.
To Bilton, the Apple Watch and Samsung’s competitor smart watch are just like cigarettes. No, not exactly. More specifically, to Bilton, assurances that the Apple Watch and Samsung’s smartwatch are like the assurances of physicians used in tobacco advertising used seven decades ago to falsely assure smokers that cigarettes were perfectly safe. Bilton also stretches his facts a bit; back then many doctors did strongly suspect that smoking tobacco was not safe. Indeed, it was suspected as early as 1912 that cigarette smoke might be causing lung cancer. As I’ve discussed many times before, the Germans produced epidemiologic data in the 1930s and 1940s linking cigarette smoking to lung cancer. Around the time of those ads, it’s true that it wasn’t yet firmly established that smoking was strongly linked with lung cancer. That wouldn’t come until the 1950s, and it would still take a decade for the evidence to become undeniable to all but tobacco company shills. Indeed, most physicians seven decades ago didn’t accept the link, but it’s going a bit far to say that doctors “were not aware that smoking could cause cancer, heart disease, and lung disease.”
Even worse, Bilton goes trotting off to find a source that would agree with his strange concerns, and he finds…Joseph Mercola. Mercola is favorably cited in the New York Times! This is less of a feather in Mercola’s cap and more of a wet shart for the Times.
It’s in the Style section, but that doesn’t excuse it, unless you think “stylish” is a synonym for “idiot”. Clearly, what this means is that the Times needs to hire Carl Zimmer to edit all of the sections to make sure this never happens again.